Aion

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Guild Wars 2 Expansion Incoming

Is there a Guild Wars 2 expansion in the works? Probably.

When will it be out, though? That’s anyone’s guess — though some guesses have a bit more to go on than others.

The latest report from Korean securities firm KDB Daewoo has mostly good things to say about NCSoft, particularly regarding the launch of Guild Wars 2 and its first few months of operation. Specifically, Q4 2012 is cited as setting a record in operating profit for the company, with GW2 leading the way to the tune of 118 billion Korean won ($110 million USD). Combined with a 3Q OP of W46 billion ($43 million), that makes for a grand total of over $150 million.

Lineage II also gets some of the credit for NCSoft’s strong fourth quarter, with Blade & Soul and Aion expected to “remain flat.”

As for the future, the report considers the overseas — i.e., North America and Europe — market to be the most lucrative in 2013, including this exciting tidbit:

In China, the company is planning to launch Blade & Soul (via a publishing agreement with Tencent) in 3Q13 and Guild Wars 2 in 4Q13 (via a publishing agreement with Kong Zhong). Furthermore, we expect NCsoft to release an expansion pack for Guild Wars 2 in Europe and the US in 2H13.

OK, but we all figure a GW2 expansion is planned at some point in the next year or so. So what gives this estimate any credence? For that answer, look back at the first few words of the report:

We recently visited NCsoft

Now, we don’t think they walked in the doors of the NCSoft office and some executive said, “Hey, we’re doing a Guild Wars 2 expansion in the second half of 2013.” But they probably saw some projections and were able to piece together what they did see to come up with a reasonable explanation for whatever spike(s) they may have seen. And this is about as close to the source as you can get without visiting ArenaNet‘s offices.

KDB Daewoo also predicted that a Guild Wars 2 launch date announcement was “imminent” about three weeks before the actual announcement was made, so they’ve got something of a track record.

Then again, they also predicted Guild Wars 2 would launch before Thanksgiving. Technically correct, but about three months off. Close enough? We’ll have to wait and see.

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Design your ideal Bard weapon, and it could be in the game!

The Bard class is coming in Aion 4.0, and now’s your chance to leave a lasting mark on the game.  Between now and January 3rd 2013 Aion is looking for submissions of concept art for Bard weapons.  Your imagination is the limit.  Sketch out the item you think best defines a Bard, and your design might make it into the game.

mmorpg f2p news aion     Design A Weapon In Aion

This is not a ‘contest’, and there are no prizes for NA participants, therefore there are no regional restrictions.  You will however receive recognition for your design, and a hand in the naming process for the item if it is selected.  The deadline for submissions is 11:59pm, Thursday January 3 2013.

Entries may be either hand-drawn or computer generated, must include a front and sideview, and include an explanation of the intent of the design.  Check out the official rules for all the details on how to enter.

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Top 6 MMO Innovations in 2012

How the industry changed for the better

It’s been a pretty big year for MMOs. Not only have there been a ton of releases, but the market has finally moved from largely cloning a certain game with 10 million subscribers into actually trying new ideas. But which ideas failed, and which innovations succeeded? It’s time to give the right progress some recognition.

No subscription

This one is almost too obvious. In 2012, Guild Wars 2 proved top-notch MMORPGs can release without a subscription and do really well. The model hasn’t even slowed down the amount of content in the game. At the time this article was written, Guild Wars 2 had just received a massive patch that added a whole lot to do for the Wintersday holiday event.

Star Wars: The Old Republic also announced its big move to free-to-play. While the details of the model have gotten a lot of criticism, Bioware‘s move solidified the free-to-play trend. If even a Star Wars game can’t keep a subscription, how can any game? It is, after all, the golden franchise.

Of course, other games joined in. PlanetSide 2 proved the model can transcend MMORPGs. The Secret World officially moved from a subscription to a free-to-play as well. Aion followed the trend earlier in the year.

At this point, only World of Warcraft, RIFT, and EVE Online remain as the few bastions of subscription models. It’s becoming clearer that MMO players like free stuff and, more importantly, they’ll reward companies that give them free stuff.

Story in my MMO

Games like World of Warcraft certainly have lore. Quest text and books based on the Warcraft universe have enough story to keep the typical fan satisfied. But the past year has seen an increase in MMORPGs that make story a focus, not just something in a never-read quest log.

There’s certainly been some debate whether the idea has succeeded. Star Wars: The Old Republic has gone through a bumpy ride. The Secret World going free-to-play is a sign the game isn’t going as planned.

But then there’s Guild Wars 2. The game embraced story, and it’s done it without making any sacrifices in content. Whereas the story content is most of what players care for in Star Wars: The Old Republic and The Secret World, the personal story and story-mode dungeons in Guild Wars 2 are only one small part of a much larger game.

So maybe some developers haven’t nailed down the balance, but it’s nice to see it in a few top-notch titles. After all, story content is a great way to get players immersed in a world. Getting invested in good story is what keeps moviegoers, readers, and single-player gamers going back to their favorite franchises. It should be at least one of the reasons gamers go back to their favorite MMOs as well.

Three-faction world PvP returns

World PvP definitely had mixed results in 2012. At the start of the year, Ilum in Star Wars: The Old Republic was a complete disaster. In fact, it was so bad that Bioware gave up on its original model and is now undertaking a full re-design of the PvP section of the planet.

But other games — particularly games with three factions — showed world PvP can definitely work. Guild Wars 2‘s world vs. world feature is still one of the most active parts of the game. PlanetSide 2 is built entirely on a three-faction world PvP model. RIFT also adopted a three-faction conquest mode, and it’s still one of the game’s most prominent and popular PvP features.

The genius behind the model is how much easier it is to balance. One of the bigger problems in Ilum in Star Wars: The Old Republic was one faction — typically Empire — could easily outnumber and crush the smaller faction. Having three factions makes it possible so the two outnumbered sides can team up to overcome otherwise impossible odds, creating a more natural ebb and flow in balance.

It also creates more dynamic gameplay. Facing the same faction and, depending on server size, the same people over and over can get old. Being able to run into a fight without knowing what that red name represents at first can be very exciting.

Action combat

Before 2012, MMO combat had remained mostly the same for years. Some games tried different ideas here and there, but it all felt largely the same. This year, some games finally made big strides.

Obviously, there’s TERA, which embraced action combat in an enormous way. Not only does the game allow players to dodge and stay mobile for most of combat, but it even requires aiming.

Then there’s Guild Wars 2It didn’t go quite as far as TERA, but it added enough action elements — dodge, casting while moving, attacking without a target — to feel much more action-focused than previous MMOs. Its big success also shows gamers are ready to embrace more action in their MMOs, something that can’t be claimed by just looking at TERA.

Let’s not forget PlanetSide 2. It’s not an RPG, but it does show the MMO space can be much more varied than it has been in the past few years. Unlike the first game in the PlanetSide series, PlanetSide 2 feels like an authentic shooter. It’s too early to call the game a big success, but so far the game has shown that MMO gamers are at least interested in the shooter genre.

This is a great trend for gamers. It’s unusual for a genre to be so stagnant in terms of combat. It’s normal to expect a lot of variety from game to game. Even in shooters, the differences between QUAKE LIVE and Call of Duty are enormous. The move toward more varied combat will finally give MMO players more options and variety.

Down with the holy

The death of the holy trinity is mostly exclusive to Guild Wars 2 so far, but it shows a giant leap in a genre that used to be dominated by the tank-healer-DPS setup.

Now, some gamers are not happy with the lack of a holy trinity in Guild Wars 2. They argue that reducing the importance of roles diminishes the depth of classes, content, and boss encounters. These gamers very clearly prefer a more traditional setup.

But the fact is a lot of MMO gamers are happy with Guild Wars 2‘s lack of a holy trinity. For many, it’s one of the features that sells the game. It’s not the setup for everyone, but it is clearly keeping many fans’ attention.

Again, it’s a great trend for gamers, even if it’s not preferable for everyone. It adds more variety in a genre that has been relatively stagnant in terms of mechanics the past few years. Not only does it make the games more fun for some, but it adds more options to the genre as a whole.

Killing less rats

Traditional questing in MMORPGs does not have many ardent defenders. One of the first flaws people pointed out in World of Warcraft is that all its quests follow the same “kill X mobs” or “collect X items” model. Not exactly the prime example of diversity. Yet MMO developers have stuck to the model after seeing World of Warcraft‘s success.

Well, 2012 was the year that began to change. With investigative missions in The Secret World and dynamic events in Guild Wars 2, it’s become clear that developers are ready to try and gamers are ready to embrace new ideas.

Of course, both the games that changed the model still have some remains of the “kill X mobs” model. Most of the missions in The Secret World still follow a more traditional route, and many of Guild Wars 2‘s dynamic events can be simplified down to “kill a bunch of mobs.” That aspect of the genre doesn’t seem to be completely going away any time soon.

But the diversity enabled by investigative missions and dynamic events is a huge step in the genre. It’s no longer the typical ritual of picking up a quest, killing some mobs, and turning the quest in. The quest can now turn out to be a puzzle, or it can be an event that everyone takes part in. It can even finish in a completely different spot from where it started.

That’s really the crux of all of 2012’s innovations: They gave players more options. Whether it’s more ways to pay for the game, more kinds of content, an extra faction in PvP, different styles of combat, more setups than the holy trinity, or greater variety in questing, the MMO is quickly moving in a way from its old tropes and beginning to embrace diversity like never before.

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Aion has revealed the second class to be found in Aion 4.0, the Bard. This new class is said to be a mixture of Cleric and Spiritmaster with a number of unique crowd control mechanics and spells that will pack a punch.

It is definitely no Bard’s Tale but I am curious to hear from members of Aion’s community whether this take on the class has gotten people excited or not?

Check out the new class in all its glorious penguin dancing fun and make sure to drop a comment.

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Aion 4.0 - Katalam - Rune Entrance

There have been a lot of changes to Aion since the conversion to F2P and more are on their way.  The game’s next update — 4.0 — was “announced” with the teasing of three new classes and as of now two of these classes, the Troubadour and the Gunslinger, have been revealed, leaving only one more in the shadows.

But, it appears that classes aren’t the only new things that will be arriving with the update.  According to a post on NCSoft’s website players can look forward to a whole new region, named “Katalam”.  While they haven’t released details on the size of the region or what players can expect to see in it, they have issued some beautiful concept art of some of the region’s fortresses — two of which look like they could have been pulled from a scene of Indiana Jones.

I’ll admit, I haven’t been in Aion in a while, but I’m really looking forward to seeing some footage of Katalam and — hopefully — the insides of some of these fortresses.

For a peek at Katalam, as well as some concept art for the two revealed classes, look below.

[portfolio_slideshow size=custom]

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NCSoft‘s Aion has released a new trailer showing off the brand new class, Shooting Star. The class uses either duel wielding pistols or a massive two handed cannon that makes even melee characters smile.

Check out the trailer and let us know Aion fans, what you think about this duster heading into the game.

Aion was going to do it. Then maybe Rift. Star Wars: The Old Republic? You better believe it. Guild Wars 2? The final nail in the coffin. And if that doesn’t do it, The Elder Scrolls Online will.

Seems like we’ve been talking about the game that will kill World of Warcraft for as long as we’ve been talking about… well, World of Warcraft. Many MMOs have been heralded as the fabled WoW Killer, and while some have achieved a fair level of success on their own, none have quite fulfilled their murderous prophecies.

The entries below are not necessarily from top-notch prognosticators or even people who can spell properly. Most respectable game journalists and halfway literate bloggers have rightly stopped trying to predict the dreaded “WoW Killer.”

Instead, keep in mind these fabulous glimpses into MMO history the next time a friend or semi-anonymous troll/commenter on the Internet tries to convince you that a game will kill or has already killed WoW.

Oh, and feel free to point and laugh.

world of warcraft mmorpg mmorpg     9 Sure Fire World Of Warcraft Killers

2007: Otherland could be a WoW killer!

Tad WilliamsOtherland series of cyberpunk novels are an underrated, though much-adored, literary triumph. In 2008, the MMO was announced and is currently in closed beta.

One fan, however, was on the bandwagon nearly a year earlier, posting the idea on the official forum in 2007, which even elicited a response from Williams himself, which you can see in the thread.

That being said: Had you heard of Otherland before reading this piece? And if you had, did you know there was an MMO in the works? Seems to me that in order to be a WoW Killer, people should, I don’t know, have heard of your game a few months before it’s set to launch?

2005: Will this be the WoW killer?

At least Dungeons & Dragons Online was known to be in development when this voice in the wilderness popped up. And hey: Dungeons & Dragons is a major property; without it, it’s safe to say there would be no fantasy RPG market, and hence no World of Warcraft in the first place!

His favorite feature?

“DESTRUCTABLE ENVIRONMENT WITH HIDDEN ITEMS IN IT!!!!!!”

Which sounds good until you realize how much time you spend in DDO whacking innocent barrels hoping to find a few copper coins. Whee.

2010: Ensemble Studios spent three years developing a WoW killer

One of the few cases we can find of a “professional” – OK, someone writing for Gamespot – declaring the “WoW Killer” is for a game that was never made. Hey, great way to never be proven wrong, huh?

A Halo MMORPG – which we’ll assume would be more accurately called an MMOFPS – certainly sounds appealing, but we have several MMOFPS titles in the works, like PlanetSide 2, Firefall, and DUST 514, that, while potential hits, aren’t looking to topple WoW any time soon.

Could the Halo license have changed all this? Doubtful. But wait! It had a $90 million budget! Microsoft was behind it! The only thing that could beat that would be if Electronic Arts was behind an MMO with more than twice the budget!

world of warcraft mmorpg mmorpg     9 Sure Fire World Of Warcraft Killers

2009: This game will be a WoW killer

The OP in this thread is clearly a troll, but several later respondents insist, with all sincerity, that Age of Conan could have been a WoW Killer if only it had been more polished – or simply finished – at launch.

Whether that’s true or not, we’ll never truly know, but even with a “perfect” launch, the game’s M rating would have likely kept it out of the hands of too many people. Complain all you want about “WoW kiddies,” but their – or, more accurately, their parents’ – money enriches Blizzard’s coffers just as well as yours does.

2008: Finally a WoW killer

With an evangelist like this guy, how could you not have loved Darkfall‘s chances?

“You can loot anything from the people you kill, no more care bear gameplay for the noobs

You actually aim in first person to shoot your bows and swing a sword in third person no auto attacks in this game

Guilds can attack castles and steal everything from there bank so you must buy guards to play while your offline

This game will be the greatest game ever.

ive never been hyped about anyother mmo so trust me.”

And that’s just on the first page. The marketing team should have hired him.

2010: APB the WoW killer

RealTime Worlds really made a mess of things, but even if APB had launched “perfectly,” it’s hard to imagine how anyone could have seen it as the WoW Killer.

There’s that whole M-rated thing we talked about earlier. And the part about MMOFPS games not being especially huge hits. And… well, do you need much more? Oh yeah, you can drive, too!

Maybe if they’d put in corpse looting and castles, they could have snared that Darkfall fan.

world of warcraft mmorpg mmorpg     9 Sure Fire World Of Warcraft Killers

2005: RF Online, DAOC/WoW killer?

Why kill just World of Warcraft when you can also take out Dark Age of Camelot? And the second respondent also wants it to put the nail in the original PlanetSide‘s coffin, too! It’s a bloodbath!

RF Online lasted about two years in North America, running from 2006 to 2008, but re-launched in August 2012. We’re betting you all noticed.

2012: “Eve Online can become a genuine WoW-killer”

Here’s a good one. A game that was released in 2003 – before WoW – can become its killer in 2012. Huh?

“I seriously believe that, done right, EVE Online can become a genuine WoW-killer.”

Ah, there’s the rub: “done right.” So, when EVE Online fails to topple WoW, the poster can claim it was because CCP Games didn’t “do it right,” and not because he was talking out of his exhaust port.

Look, EVE is a good game. It also has about 4% of the active playerbase of WoW. For someone who plays EVE, you’d think this guy would have a better grasp of math.

2008: WoW killer! Play it here!

Now this one I can believe. WoW, your days are numbered!

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After a full weekend of Guild Wars 2’s headstart, the game is laid bare for all to behold and there have been some criticisms due to an imperfect launch; which has seen frustration for a large number of players.

Many players in Europe had issues logging in over the weekend, some 64bit players had problems with client, the gem store was down for quite a while, the Trading Post continues to be down — at time of writing — and other issues remain.

So with all that in mind, I still recoil when I see people make statements along the lines of “Worst Launch Ever!”

There are a few reasons why I think some context needs to be considered.

1) Launch Stability
Should MMOs get a free pass when it comes to issues coming up at launch which impede the enjoyment of players? Of course not, there are things occurring in Guild Wars 2 that need to be fixed pronto. Which is why you will have seen ArenaNet’s consistent updates, suggestions and hands up honest admission that there are things that need fixing and that they are working feverishly on them.

Are the issues comparable to those encountered by other MMOs? Absolutely. If anything, Guild Wars 2 comes out in a favorable light compared to many other launches.

My experience this weekend, which is of course not that of everyone, has been of an incredibly smooth game wherein I had one crash on opening night – mainly due to XSplit and Fraps making a toxic combo I think – but otherwise I had no client side interruptions, virtually no lag and a thoroughly fun time.

There have been patches for other MMOs that have had more grenades in them than this launch has for me.

That isn’t the case for too many people, something I’m sure ArenaNet agrees with. It’s entirely understandable that folks are frustrated at not being able to get in-game with predictable reliability for a couple of days, but this really is not a new thing for MMOs. And it is certainly not new for launch.

mmorpg guild wars 2 mmorpg     Launch Rage!

2) Packed in like Sardines
There are large queues for WvW which should begin to improve after the initial rush – over 400,000 peak concurrent users were reported this weekend. In the main I’ve avoided PvP; mainly because I’ve been enjoying the PvE so much, but also because I knew that with packed servers it was likely that WvW would be very busy.

This happens. Aion had queues for hours on end just to get in game at all. SWTOR had very big queues at launch, decided to throw a bunch of new servers up, then found them half-empty and fading because BioWare had reacted too quickly.

World of Warcraft’s systems were utterly overwhelmed at launch. There were nowhere near enough servers and the problems continued for more than just a few days. There were also a lot of bugs present. Ironforge was virtually unplayable due to lag for a long time, which turned it into a Dwarven Power Point presentation.

It was blatantly obvious that there were going to be full servers, hence the very smart decision by ArenaNet to allow free transfers and to put off guesting until things settled down. The teething pain of server population was absolutely expected and necessary. It’s important to force through this initial problems with balancing out populations rather than overdoing it with too many servers and having to do mergers post-launch.

The choice is between immediate, short term difficulties and those with longer-lasting ramifications.

Is it disappointing to be greeted with full servers? Absolutely, but if you didn’t expect that to happen then I’d like to welcome you to the world of MMO gaming; trust me it gets better.

mmorpg guild wars 2 mmorpg     Launch Rage!

3) Not Working vs. Broken

The Trading Post is down. There seems to be a bug or infrastructure problem causing issues which has necessitated pulling it offline completely until it is fixed. This is certainly not a good thing. I know I love to delve into the economy of games and having it come online when there will be a stockpile of materials sitting in various banks will cause a short term market issue. But it will rectify itself pretty quickly.

It’s also an aspect of the game which is currently missing. Again, that’s not great news, but here’s a silver lining: when the Trading Post comes online, its actual design is awesome. I’ve played around with it for more than a few weekends and I’m very happy with how well put together it is.

Compare that to SWTOR’s Galactic Trade Network. It was certainly live at launch, but I wish it wasn’t. It functioned, but in such a way that it reminded you of just how much better it had been implemented in other games.

Virtually every other game.

Again, it is certainly not great that the Trading Post is currently not working, but taking it down to ensure it is fixed is much more preferable a situation than leaving something up that is patently unfinished and poorly designed.

Sorry to beat up on SWTOR – which has improved markedly in many areas – but does anyone remember Ilum?

mmorpg guild wars 2 mmorpg     Launch Rage!

4) Content with Content
Though WvW is extremely busy and the economy is mainly on pause, there is still an abundance of things to do in Guild Wars 2 right now. I haven’t seen any complaints so far about whether there is enough PvE content to be going on with – if there are genuine issues I’d certainly like to be informed of them.

Some have said the leveling curve is off. Personally I don’t agree. I have a feeling people are running from heart to heart and that is causing the issue — if this isn’t the case, leave a comment below!

I haven’t had that issue at all because I haven’t used the Renown Hearts like the quest content in WoW. I’ve simply run around and got lost in the game, done a little material farming and tradeskilling – not much though, I’m still not near 75 for either of my tradeskills and I’m only about level 20 for Weaponsmithing. I’ve done no PvP whatsoever, purposefully to see what the leveling curve is like.

Once I found myself running into the same areas repeatedly, I then started to use my map to find remaining Points of Interest or Vistas.

I hit 100% completion of Queensdale when I was midway through level 15.

Also remember if you do find yourself wanting to earn a few levels purely from PvE encounters and you aren’t at the optimal level in that area, there are other areas that are easily traveled to of the same level bracket.

Now lets compare this experience, even if you are somewhat perturbed by the leveling curve, to Age of Conan at launch — another game that has changed greatly since.

Age of Conan was quite hyped and was received extremely well; for the first 20 levels.

If you’ve ever feverishly ripped off the wrapping to a large gift box only to find that you don’t have a new HD widescreen television but a lollipop covered in lint, then a) I’m sorry, you have some seriously messed up relatives and b) now you know what AoC was like at launch.

From what we have seen so far, Guild Wars 2 has a lot to do that works very well. This is not the case for all games at launch.

mmorpg guild wars 2 mmorpg     Launch Rage!

In closing, there are issues that persist in GW2 as we arrive on the game’s official launch. Problems that I certainly hope are fixed in a timely manner – many of them already have been. People certainly have the right to be annoyed by the problems they have met due to the way the systems have been taxed since Friday night.

All I would say is that when put into context, there should be a sense of proportion. Guild Wars 2 is not the worst launch I’ve seen. Not by a long stretch.

Thanks for reading.

You can catch me every day over at ZAM.com and, of course, on GuildCast every Wednesday at 9 Pacific.

Guild Wars 2's Three Layers Of Story

The last Beta Weekend Event for Guild Wars 2 is in the books, but if you’re one of those folks who’s been skipping the personal story so as not to spoil it for launch, ArenaNet‘s got a blog post today talking about the multiple layers of story in GW2.

Continuity and Lore Designer Jeff Grubb talks about the three stories in GW2: the large, worldwide story concerning the rise of Zhaitan and his impact on all of Tyria, your character’s personal story, and the story of Destiny’s Edge. Each is told largely through certain aspects of the game: the “world story” through dynamic events, the personal story through story instances, and the Destiny’s Edge story through dungeons.

In time, these three story trails weave together to tell what Grubb labels the “greater whole of Guild Wars 2,” the notion of people uniting underneath a common banner to take on greater foes than they could handle individually. It’s similar to the MMO experience, that one must join with others — whether in a group or a guild — to take on larger challenges.

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XLGames has been gaining notice with their sandbox MMORPG ArcheAge, and while many a fan of the series knows the vast array of features the game boasts such as building your own house/ship, or choosing three abilities to craft the class you want based upon your play style, the story has remained a mystery.

But now, the story that has been conveniently kept hidden from the public is being revealed in a teaser video.

In a latest teaser trailer we see Orchidna, a key character to the overall narrative of ArcheAge, asks the viewer, “Why so late?”

Sadly we have no word when we can see the next installment or how XLGames plans to expand on this intriguing start to the story.

Make sure to check out the teaser trailer and let us know in the comments section below if this puts ArcheAge’s story on your radar.

Guild Wars 2 fans rejoice as the intro to the intelligent and crafty Asura has appeared on GameTrailers.com

The Asura are the crafters of massive technological marvels of Tyria, and now we are finally given a look at these master minds of ingenuity.

The intro shows off the use of golems which many from the beta weekends will know are a force to be reckoned with, but also explains the trouble that forces your hand as a player to act.

Check out the video and let us know if the Asura is your ideal main character, or does the overconfident – while brilliant – intelligence irk your Charr like sensibilities?

[UPDATE]

Ree Soesbee dropped a blog post on the Guild Wars 2 main website to discuss the goal of expressing in a minute and a half intro the scope, the feeling, and the inspiration of the character you’re about to experience.

The way lore writers and artist challenge each other to add more creative power to these videos we love and really layer that excitement till we, the gamers, are charging headlong into the game tearing down our foes and absorbing the world.

Near the end of the article, she does give a short but sweet node to stay tune for the Sylvari intro.

Keep your eyes glued to Gamebreaker as we eagerly wait for more info to hit the net.

 

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    Games Industry International sat down with Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls creator David Cage to discuss his views on innovation in the game industry and how gamers associate and make connections with digital characters.

    During the interview, they discussed the need for games to innovate or “die” in stagnation. Cage agreed that games need raise the bar in innovation to be successful. He gives an example of Journey, and while it is different from his current projects, the innovative and creative use of emotion to draw the player in has given the industry a direction that – hopefully – we will eventually see expand into new possibilities.

    These possibilities are the driving point of what Cage is looking to bring gamers desiring something more than just standard game play. Giving players a crafted emotional experience works to draw the gamer in and forget that the character on the screen is a group of pixels, while helping to avoid the emotional disconnect seen currently in many games.

    It is precisely this struggle many developers find themselves facing when trying to create an emotional bond between the character and audience.

    Forgetting that a character on the screen is fictitious in nature is hard to pull off and as Cage puts it:

    …the main issue I have is that sometimes it works very well and you totally forget about it and sometimes a detail brings you back to, “Oh, by the way. This is an avatar. It’s just a character.” We need to be consistent in quality and this is really the biggest challenge, especially for us in real-time 3D where we have hours and hours of dialogue to deal with to have the same consistent quality during the whole text.

    Whether developers use the tools of voice acting, animation, graphics, or even the overall delivery, gamers can start to expect a higher caliber of story driven narrative in future games to come.

    Leave a comment below and let us know if developers’ striving for a better narrative disrupts the core idea of a video game, or is building that bond with a character essential to game play?

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    Rift - Storm Legion - Trion - Volan - Boss

    Rift‘s first ever expansion is a pretty hot topic right now and there’s plenty of good reasons why.   Everything they’ve shown us so far looks pretty impressive.  But as of now, what’s coming in the expansion isn’t the only thing worth talking about.

    Trion has announced that people buying the Storm Legion expansion will also receive the entire Rift game as part of their purchase.  Those of us who already own Rift will be able to purchase the expansion at a discount.

    This is good news for those who may not have played before and don’t want to drop the money for the original plus expansion to get in on the action.

    While Trion is not the first company to do this — Aion included the original game in the Assault on Balaurea expansion in 2010, as has SOE with EverQuest for years —  it’s still a pretty bold step on Trion’s part and yet another reason to get in on Storm Legion when it comes out.

    Trion has also said that they are looking at doing more expansions, possibly one a year?

    For those who haven’t been keeping track, the Storm Legion expansion will include a raise in level cap, player housing, two new continents, four new souls, and more.

    Oh… and Volan — one HUGE boss.  You can see him in the video.

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    Guild Wars 2 Launch Date Announcement

    KDB Daewoo Securities, which bills itself as a leader in the Korean securities market, issues regular  financial statement on NCSoft and its wholly-owned subsidiary, ArenaNet.

    Its most recent entries have included some interesting predictions — including a potential launch window — regarding Guild Wars 2.

    According to the April report, the March closed beta test was successful enough that “foreign investors have been increasing their buying of NCSoft shares.”

    The report predicts 3.12 million sales of Guild Wars 2 in North America and Europe in 2012, far exceeding NCSoft’s last big Western release, Aion, which sold 1.5 million copies in 2009. Also, NCSoft will receive $48 out of every $59.99 copy of GW2 sold.

    The May report echoes that NCSoft is a strong buy, based on the potential for GW2 and the Korean-only MMO Blade & Soul, even going so far as to drop these juicy tidbits:

    We expect NCsoft to generate earnings momentum from 3Q through 2013, aided by the launches of Blade & Soul and Guild Wars 2.

    Blade & Soul (3Q) and Guilds [sic] Wars 2 (4Q) to start generating revenues

    And we anticipate that Guild Wars 2 will be rolled out in the US and Europe before the Thanksgiving holiday.

    Technically, they’re making guesses — albeit fairly educated ones — just like the rest of us, but it’s a little depressing to think that people who get paid large sums of money to figure these things out think we might have to wait until November for Guild Wars 2.

    However, the June report — which came out a week ago and blames NCSoft’s poor recent performance on the emergence of Diablo III —  offers more optimistic news:

    Furthermore, given the expected commercial launches of two potential blockbusters (Blade & Soul and Guild Wars 2) in 3Q, we project the company’s 3Q operating profit to reach the W100bn level.

    Given that the company will need some preparation time (for marketing and cooperation with online and offline agencies) before the commercial launch in 3Q, we think that an announcement about Guild Wars 2’s commercial launch is imminent.

    We can only hope.

    Guild Wars 2 has passed 500,000 Likes on Facebook.

    To celebrate, ArenaNet revealed a new piece of concept art, something the company’s done for every 10,000 new Likes from 460,000 on.

    But does this campaign – or the number of Facebook Likes in general – tell us anything about how a game is doing?

    Take a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic, which has gone down from 2 million active subscriptions to 1.7 million to 1.3 million. But that doesn’t just mean that 700,000 people quit playing. Some larger number quit, but it’s certain that some other number started a subscription, partially offsetting those losses.

    Tracking social media traffic, whether Likes on Facebook, Twitter followers, or whatever, won’t tell us exactly how many players a game has, but it can be a decent indicator of whether a game is drawing in new people – even if older players are leaving the product.

    star wars the old republic mmorpg mmorpg     GAINING PLAYERS?

    Here are the top 15 MMO games, ranked by their increase in Facebook likes over the past three months:

    World of Warcraft: 405,992
    Star Wars: The Old Republic: 353,520
    Fiesta Online
    : 252,169
    Guild Wars 2: 236,434
    Runescape
    : 140,476

    AdventureQuest Worlds: 113,888
    The Secret World
    : 79,754
    MapleStory
    : 54,566
    DC Universe Online
    : 47,864
    Lineage 2
    : 42,701

    Runes of Magic: 41,387
    Wakfu
    : 34,899
    Aion
    : 32,845
    TERA
    : 30,467
    Wizard101
    : 29,559

    The top five is what you’d expect – mostly. WoW, SWTOR, and Runescape are huge ongoing games, Guild Wars 2 has garnered a lot of attention with its recent betas, and… Fiesta Online?

    Yes, Outspark’s casual MMO has attracted the third-most new people to its Facebook page since February. Overall, it has the fifth-most FB Likes, trailing only WoW, SWTOR, Runescape, and MapleStory.

    The rest of the list contains several games that have recently been in the news for launching (Wakfu, TERA), entering beta (TSW) or going free-to-play (Aion, Lineage 2).

    star wars the old republic mmorpg mmorpg     GAINING PLAYERS?

    And then there’s DC Universe Online, which inspired the conversation that led to this post. Earlier this week, I was talking with GAMEBREAKER staff about DCUO‘s strong Facebook following, to which the response was, “Yes, but they probably all jumped on when it launched and have since left.”

    This would seem to prove otherwise. To put it into perspective, DCUO has gained more Facebook Likes in the past three months than Age of Conan has altogether. So it’s hardly the case that the game just attracted people at launch and then vanished.

    Not all of those 47,864 new Likes represent new players, but some of them must, and there’s little reason to think that — if we could look at new player numbers for all MMOs over the past three months — DCUO wouldn’t be in or around the top 10.

    For unreleased or recently released games like Guild Wars 2 and TERA, these numbers give us a decent look at how well the game is being publicized and how many people are planning to try it out.

    And what about SWTOR? When it comes down to it, all that matters are the subscriptions. But getting 100,000 to 200,000 new people interested – if not outright playing – every month is still a positive sign, even if not all are currently subscribing or some that are inevitably unsubscribe.

    If those numbers level out or actually start dropping – then I’d be worried.

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    As initially spotted by Guild Wars Insider — and discussed in this week’s GuildcastMartin Kerstein made one of his regular Guild Wars Guru appearances to reveal a remarkable feature of Guild Wars 2: overflow servers.

    Many games have suffered with complaints about full servers, particularly at launch. Star Wars: The Old Republic, Aion, and more have felt the wrath of inconvenienced players stuck in server queues — for hours in extreme cases. ArenaNet has an innovative answer to the problem. As Kerstein explained:

    When a map or a world you want to log into is at capacity limit, the game will ask you if you want to play on an overflow server – so you can actually play while you are in a queue.

    It seems a brilliantly simple solution to gamers’ frustration: carry on playing and take your progression from the overflow server along when a spot opens up on your home community — it also points encouragingly towards ease of general server transfers.

    After the beta weekend, the innumerable innovations in GW2 are living up to their billing.

    For all your Guild Wars 2 news, stay right here on GAMEBREAKER.

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    Since Aion was announced as going free-to-play in Europe earlier this year, North American Daevas have been wondering if the same would happen to their version of the game. The wondering is over, as today NCSoft released a video trailer for Aion 3.0: Ascension, announcing that the game would be “truly free” when Ascension goes live this spring, likely similar to the model for Lineage 2. Details regarding the move were confirmed and expanded upon in a press release.

    In addition to the F2P switch, Ascension will bring a host of other new features to Aion, including player housing, mounts, an increased level cap, six new instances, a 24-person raid, and a new level cap of 60. The starting areas will be refined for new players, and a “Rallying the Troops” event will be held, letting free players get a head start on the game and experiencing it up to level 40 with no time limits, while also reactivating the accounts of lapsed former players for 14 days.

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    A dark new teaser for Aion

    If this new trailer is any indication, something weird is about go down in Aion. This video, titled simply “Remember…” starts with a girl hovering beneath a looming shadow, as her inner monologue remarks: “They say your life flashes before your eyes when you die.” Then the trailer cuts to a black-and-white sequence of the same character in various stages throughout her life, before finally fading to an Aion title screen.

    The trailer is clearly leading up to something big and probably kind of weird. Is NCsoft trying to entice additional Aion subscribers by releasing a somber, morbid teaser? Is it a really bizarre way of hinting that the game will be going free-to-play? Or could it just be a sign that an incredibly morose story arc is on its way?

    I’m sure we won’t have to wait too much longer to find out. Until then, I’d love to hear your theories in the comments section.

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